Smart Business inspires: there were more applications in this category (187 to be exact) than for any other in this year’s EDF Pulse Awards.
Meeting on 29 March, the members of the selection committee had their work cut out for them when it came to choosing from among all the high-quality projects.
The goal of the experts, coaches and members of the EDF Pulse Awards team was to determine an initial shortlist of projects. The process required them to share and compare opinions and analyses and to defend their favourites.
We met with Anne-Cécile Ladrange and Guillaume Sagnes, expert and coach respectively for the Smart Business category, to go over the specifics of this year’s Awards. Amid artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), drones and collaborative platforms, it was the diversity of the projects that stood out for the committee.
Today, there are so many challenges when it comes to collaboration within companies, especially with the emergence of new business lines.
Guillaume Sagnes, Digital Marketing Manager - Koredge Agency
Smart Business, a vehicle for transforming our organisations
Smart Business is a term that can sometimes lead to confusion. The members of the selection committee therefore had to make sure they were on the same page. The definition used by the EDF Pulse Awards is clear: "recognising innovations that contribute to building companies and industries of the future, by improving the operational, technical, energy and environmental performance of people and organisations". However, a few elements still needed clarification.
For Guillaume Sagnes, Digital Marketing Manager at Koredge and a coach for the Smart Business category, "Many startups focus on Smart Business because, today, there are so many challenges when it comes to collaboration within companies, especially with the emergence of new business lines. However, new business lines also mean new needs, new practices and new solutions to be offered."
So, it’s a broad category and, while new to the EDF Pulse Awards, it has met with an excellent response from project leaders, who are aware of the far-reaching changes that organisations are facing – and the need to offer relevant solutions.
"The challenges for organisations are considerable: they must adapt to permanent changes, whether these are related to new technologies, societal shifts, new practices or new employee expectations,” explained Anne-Cécile Ladrange, Manager in the Innovation Hub, the purpose of which is to study transformations such as these.
AI, VR and drones: a high-profile trio
The projects submitted are in line with the latest technological developments: chatbots and their artificial intelligence can be found in several of them, as well as virtual reality in projects focusing on mobility or flexibility in the workplace.
Drones also had a key role to play, and Guillaume was thrilled “to have seen new ways of flying them” among the projects submitted in this field.
Of course, Smart Business also has an impact on the Smart Factory, which was echoed in the projects – especially the one aimed at securing and monitoring production sites using robots.
Technology: contact facilitator and source of well-being
With no employees to implement it, Smart Business would be an empty shell. Several projects are focusing on HR issues that help put people back at the heart of their thinking. And, for them, improving performance goes hand-in-hand with employee well-being. From psychosocial risk prevention and optimised mobility or augmented-self solutions to projects centred on collective intelligence, knowledge sharing or employee training, there are so many variations in ways to take care of employees.
Another way of addressing the role of people within the company comes in the form of communication platforms. Through them, self-employed workers could find potential clients, VSEs and SMEs could seek legal advice, and recruiters could track down rare profiles.
The first thing to do is, above all, respond to a need that will add value in a given market.
Anne-Cécile Ladrange, Manager, EDF Innovation Hub
A difficult choice
When sorting through the vast abundance of projects, the experts had to consider many criteria: clarity of the proposal, progress for society, an innovative nature that sets the solution apart, relevance and viability of the business model, and team quality, as well as the motivations and values highlighted by the project leaders…
"The first thing to do is, above all, respond to a need that will add value in a given market, not forgetting of course the viability of partners, the initial customers, the places where they are incubated and the relevance of their commercial approach,” Anne-Cécile explained further. “But especially a clear and engaging use scenario to make it easy to understand exactly which need the project meets."
However, the committee could not help falling for a few favourites, either. The smaller technological underdogs and other outsiders already promising to shake things up were therefore still in with a chance. “This remains true even if the use scenarios might only emerge in the distant future,” Anne-Cécile added.
Next step: selection of finalists and start of coaching
Following the committee’s deliberations, twenty projects have already been chosen to advance in the selection process. Only the best among them will be presented to the internal judging panel, which will be meeting in May to select the finalists in each category.
That is when Guillaume Sagnes and the other coaches from the EDF Pulse Agency will truly jump into action with the finalist startups. Their role will be to support them in the design and implementation of effective, powerful communication with a view to winning the hearts of the public. Guillaume says "he will be keen to offer project leaders his experience as an entrepreneur, while also helping them with the more marketing and digital communication side of things."
It is a programme filled with learning opportunities for the finalists, who will have a lot on their plate once they are announced in early May.